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Elementary Math Center Ideas

Photo by Mel Rowling (

If you are new to the concept of learning centers, or if you have not used them in your classroom for a few years, the thought of starting them can be a bit overwhelming. Just the idea of having to gather supplies and set up a separate area is a lot to think about. To help you ease into the center making process, we have come up with three quick and easy math centers that will work great in your elementary classroom.

Soccer Ball Math: Addition and Subtraction

This math center idea incorporates a sports theme into the activity and helps strengthen students’ addition and subtraction skills. Begin by creating a small space in your room for this center. The best way to do that is to set up a tri-fold display board, similar to what you might have students use for a science fair, with the center information. Cut out grass from green construction paper to use as the bottom border. A large soccer ball picture that you find on the Internet can be cut out and placed on the middle panel of the board in the grass border. Come up with a clever title or simply call it “Soccer Ball Math Center.” On each of the two outer sides, have folders attached as pockets that contain answer sheets. In front of each side, place a basket with a soccer ball. The soccer ball should have one math problem written in permanent marker on each white area. You can create two balls that have both addition and subtraction, or have one ball for each operation. The answer sheets should be numbered to match the number of problems on the each ball. When students have completed the problems on each soccer ball, they can turn in their answers for credit. You can also use this center with upper elementary or middle school students by changing the addition and subtraction to multiplication and division.

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How Do They Measure Up?: Inches or Centimeters

Students can get easily confused when it comes to measuring in inches and centimeters. To give them practice learning the difference between the two, create a bulletin board measuring center. On a wall bulletin board that is at your students’ height, place cut-outs of objects of varying lengths. For example, if you are studying the first Thanksgiving, you could place cut outs of a Pilgrim’s hat, an ear of corn, or a long table. Have students measure and record the length of each cut out in inches or centimeters, or even both if you so choose. Answer sheets can be in a hanging pocket folder attached to the corner of the board. Not only will students enjoy being up and moving around as they measure, but they will also enjoy the variety from worksheets.

Photo by Karen Horton (

Everything is Ship Shape: Exploring Tangrams

This fun, math center focuses on using Tangrams as part of the center’s activities. A small, portable center works just as well as a large bulletin board center for this lesson, so use whichever you have room for. From construction paper, cut out large Tangram shapes that correspond to the shapes that are in your student sets. Mount them on the bulletin board or in the tri-fold display in different designs and patterns that you would like your students to replicate. Have a zipper pouch to hold the Tangram shapes and a digital camera that students can use to take pictures of the shapes that they have created. When the student takes a picture, have them place it on a dry erase board or mat where they have written their name. This way, each student’s name is next to the pictures of his work. You can quickly preview the work and make sure that students were able to correctly complete the shapes using the board displays as a template. This is a great way to encourage visual discrimination between shapes and patterns.

If you are a long time user of centers in the classroom, share your favorite ideas with us!

We would love to hear what math centers you do with your students.

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I love using math centers and have got a lot of free resources from: It provides a range of math teaching resources, math games, and hands-on math activities for K through 5th grade and all activities are correlated with the Common Core State Standards.


I love using math centers with my 1st graders. We usually fit in four 15 minute rotations: computer, game, independent practice, and meet with the teacher. This gives them a chance to move around and change things up a bit. I always looking for fun new games.

Kathryn Elder
Kathryn Elder

I am always in need of more ideas for my math centers.

Laura D
Laura D

Some really great ideas here.